Images de page
PDF
ePub

right to expose abuses, to complain of grievances, provided always that it were done with an honest and fair intention. Upon this principle, I appeal to you, whether this advertisement might not be written with a bona fide intention, and inserted among a thousand others, without any

seditious

purpose, or desire to disturb the public peace. : Undoubtedly our first duty is the love of our country; but this love of our country does not consist in a servile attachment and blind adulation to authority. It was not so that our ancestors loved their country; because they loved it, they sought to discover the defects of its government; because they loved it, they endeavoured to apply the remedy. They regarded the constitution not as slaves with a constrained and involuntary homage, but they loved it with the generous and enlightened ardour of free

Their attachment was founded upon a conviction of its excellence, and they secured its permanence by freeing it from blemish. Such was the love of our ancestors for the constitution, and their posterity surely do not become criminal by emulating their example. I appeal to you, whether the abuses stated in this paper do not exist in the constitution, and whether their existence has not been admitted by all parties, both by the friends and enemies of reform. Both, I have no doubt, are honest in their opinions, and God forbid that honest opinion in either party, should ever become a crime. In their opinion of the necessity of a reform, as the best and perlaps only remedy of the abuses of the constitution, the writers of this paper coincide with the most eminent and enlightened men. On this ground I leave the question,-secure that your verdict will be agreeable to the dictates of your consciences, and be directed by a sound and unbiassed judgment.

men.

1

Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL.-There are some propositions which my Learned Friend (Mr. Erskine) has brought forward for the Defendants, which not only I do not mean to dispute, as an officer of the Crown, carrying on this prosecution, but which I will also admit to their full extent. Every individual is certainly in a considerable degree interested in this prosecution ; at the same time I must observe, that I should have, in my own opinion, betrayed my duty to the Crown, if I had not brought this subject for the consideration of a Jury. Considering, however, every individual as under my protection, I think it a duty which I owe to the Defendants, to acknowledge, that in no one instance before this time were they brought to the bar of any Court, to answer for

any "offence either against Government or a private individual.-—This is the only solitary instance in which they have given occasion for such charge to be brought against them. In every thing, therefore, that I know of the Defendants, you are to take then as men standing perfectly free from any iimputation but the preseñt; and I will also say, from all I have

ever heard of the Defendants, and from all I have ever observed of their morals in the conduct of their paper, I honestly and candidly believe them to be men incapable of wilfully publishing any slander on individuals, or of prostituting their paper to defamation or indecency. But my Learned Friend, Mr. Erskine, has stated some points, which my duty calls upon me to take notice of. I bound myself by the contents of the paper only; I did not know the author of it. I did not know any Society from which the paper purported to have originated; it is said to be the production of a man of great abilities; I do not know that he is the author; at any rate, this is the first time I ever heard of that circumstance. There is one fact, on which we are all agreed, that the paper itself was dated on the 16th of July 1792, and that it appeared in the Morning Chronicle on the 25th of December 1792. It was then presented to the public with a variety of other advertisements, which it will be proper for you to peruse, and for that purpose you will carry out the paper

with

you, if you find it necessary to withdraw, in order to see what the intent of the Defendants was in publishing this

paper. A bill, I also admit, passed into a law, the last session of Parliament, upon the subject of libels ; but it would be exceedingly unfortunate for the subjects of this country, if my Learned Friend and myself were to be allowed to give evidence in a court of justice of what was our intention in passing that bill. The bill has now become a solemn act of

[ocr errors]

the Legislature, and must speak for itself by its contents; but, however, it has, in my opinion, done what it was intended to do. It refers the question of guilt to the Jury in cases of libels, precisely as in every other criminal case. My Learned Friend has insisted, that criminal intention is matter of fact mixed with matter of law. I agree to this description ; but then the law says that such and such facts are evidence of such and such intention. Treason, for instance, depends upon intention ; but such and such acts are evidence of a criminal intention; and if the Jury entertain any doubts upon any part of the charge, his Lordship will only do his duty by giving them his advice and direction, which will be, that he who does such and such things, if he does them with a criminal intention, is amenable to the law, and that such and such acts are evidence of the criminal intention; and then the Jury must decide upon that evidence, and upon that advice, whether the Defendant was or was not guilty: so says Mr. Erskine, and so I say; for it is a matter of plain common sense, coming home to the understanding of every man. Mr. Erskine has contended, that the Jury must not draw the inference of criminal intention from the mere fact of publishing a paper. Certainly not; but they may draw the inference of guilty intention, if they discover in the contents of the paper a wicked and malicious spirit, evidently 'pursuing a bad object by unwarrantable means. If I should put a paper into the hands of the Jury, desiring them to put my Learned Friend to death, would not that prove an evil intention against my Friend's life? In all cases of publication, containing any thing improper, the bad intention of the

person publishing was clear, unless on his own part he could prove the contrary. Such has always been the law of England, in criminal cases of this description. Mr. Erskine has desired you to carry out the paper, and look at the other advertisements; upon this I am bound to remark, that there is not one of them, except that in question, which is not dated in the month of December, while this advertisement is dated on the 16th of July, though it did not find its way into the Morning Chronicle until the end of the month of December. How that came to happen I cannot tell ; it must be left to you to determine; but it does appear that at a very critical moment to the constitution of this country, it was brought out to counteract the intention and effect of all the other declarations in support of Government. * At what time the Defendants received the

paper

in question, they had not attempted to prove. Why, if they received it in July, they did not then insert it, they did not say. They had brought no exculpatory evidence whatever to account for the delay. It was

urged that the Defendants only published it in the way of business,: as an advertisement, and therefore they could not be said to be guilty; if I should be brought to admit this as a sufficienti answer, and never institute al prosecution where such was the

« PrécédentContinuer »